Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/193

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
189
INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS OF RESEARCH
With the growth of the scientific spirit grows the love of truth, and with the love of truth in the abstract comes the love of accuracy in the concrete.

Our foremost English dictionaries are in general not any more satisfying or edifying regarding the precise meaning of "research" in the scientific sense than are the standard encyclopedias. Their illustrations of the use of the word are usually neither apt nor sufficiently comprehensive.

 

How may we sharpen Our Senses?

Of the senses, sight plays the greatest part in investigation. To this organ we have thus far devoted most attention to supplement and increase its natural powers by mechanical means—the telescope, microscope, etc. Next would rank the sense of hearing; but the appliances for increasing our sensations in this respect are comparatively few, and still more is this the case with regard to the senses of taste, smell and touch.

Yet what truly wonderful powers of touch are developed by the blind, and how extraordinary are the capabilities of certain animals for foretelling the distant approach of a deadly foe by the means of hearing or of smell! There are well-authenticated cases on record where animals unquestionably appear to have "felt" the coming of a great natural catastrophe, like an earthquake, several hours before any human being had the same knowledge.

Might not man also, to his advantage, increase or stimulate his less-used senses in some manner, to the same degree or approximately so, as that of sight? If he did, is it not possible that thereby he might have perceptions which would materially assist him in solving some of the vexed riddles of the universe? May he not, for lack, of proper development of these senses, be in much the same plight as the "six men of Indoostan to learning much inclined who went to see the elephant, though all of them were blind"?

If there is some possibility in this direction, how about the power of stimulating or interpreting our muscle sensations, the sensations of heat and cold, of pain, of pleasure, etc.? Efforts have been made, as you know, to trace a definite connection between certain atmospheric phenomena and bodily sensations, or between the impelling motives to commit suicide or other crimes and certain meteorological conditions. Likewise are there attempts by well-known men of science to sharpen and interpret the psychic sensations.

There is revealed here a field of research but little explored as yet—the increase of our powers of perception along other lines than chiefly those of sight. No one can foretell the future possibilities in these directions.

The doctrine of evolution teaches the result of long-discontinued